University to change “confusing” general education requirements

“I was supposed to graduate early, but now I can’t,” Sydney Piantes said. Piantes, a junior cinema studies major, thought she was going to graduate from the University of Oregon early at the end of her junior year; however, complicated general education requirements are keeping this from happening. “I messed …

“I was supposed to graduate early, but now I can’t,” Sydney Piantes said.

Piantes, a junior cinema studies major, thought she was going to graduate from the University of Oregon early at the end of her junior year; however, complicated general education requirements are keeping this from happening.

“I messed up my whole situation,” Piantes said. “I thought that I could do the Bachelor of Science requirement, but for my cinema studies degree, I have to do a Bachelor of Arts, not science.”

Piantes took math classes her freshman year that put her behind in pursuing her degree. This mistake is keeping her for an extra year at the UO.

The UO is redesigning its general education requirements to better align with the university’s mission statement — and to be less confusing for students — following three warnings from the university’s accreditor.

The university has been working since 2015 to improve general education and has changed the name of general education to core education. Senate President Chris Sinclair and Professor and Associate Vice Provost for Academic Excellence Ron Bramhall are facilitating this change. The UO Senate appointed a task force in May 2017 to help streamline the process.

Changes to come include simplified terminology for students, mission-specific learning outcomes and new multicultural requirements.

UO’s general education requirements are confusing, and many students have trouble determining which courses count towards their requirements, according to Bramhall.

The general education requirements have not been changed since the 1990s. The proposed goal is to make the requirements easier to understand and to create and track specific learning outcomes derived from the university’s mission statement.

“What the accreditors want is alignment between what we are offering and assessing with the university mission,” Sinclair said.

UO received its first warning to improve the general education requirements from the university accreditors in 2007, its second in 2009 and its third in 2013.

“Certainly accreditation is driving this, I wouldn’t say that it’s the only reason we’re doing it. We should do it because we can make it better for students,” Bramhall said.

The standards set by the university accreditors require the University of Oregon to have learning outcomes derived from the mission statement, as well as ways to assess those learning outcomes. The university is doing neither of those things, according to Bramhall.

Bramhall and Sinclair pulled learning outcomes, such as critical thinking, creative thinking, written communication and ethical reasoning, directly from the mission statement to be in the proposed changes.

From 2015 to 2017, researchers came to the University of Oregon campus to diagnose issues with the current general education system. Hundreds of students were interviewed, as well as faculty and administration members, according to Bramhall.

This will be an ongoing process and will be finalized over the next few years, according to Sinclair.

Bramhall and Sinclair presented the issue to the University Senate at their meeting on Jan. 17. They said this would be the first of many conversations about potential changes.

The senate created a task force to address this issue last May, and it will be creating a Core education committee in the coming weeks. The University Senate will be voting on legislation that determines the coming changes throughout the term. 

According to Chris Sinclair, one of the proposed solutions is to create major-specific tracks to streamline the process for incoming freshmen.

For example, if a student came to the university and wanted to major in business, they would take the business-specific track of study. There, they would take all prerequisites for business classes in conjunction with their general education requirements.

If a student was undeclared, they would take a more broad track of study to expose them to more potential majors while still completing their general education requirements.

Sinclair said there are several other changes to come within general education following the Core education requirements, such as the BA and BS classifications and the multicultural requirements.

“Streamlining the requirements should help students make better progress towards their degree,” Bramhall stated.


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